DDOS attacks. They are sort of this annoying but sometimes useful thing that exists in the realm of computing and the internet. We talked about them earlier this past year when E-sport and MMO servers were attacked, including those of Blizzard (World of Warcraft/Starcraft/Diablo 3), Valve (DOTA2), and Riot (League of Legends). Like those last attacks, the same hacker group is vocalizing responsibility for this round of outages… however, there’s no real way to prove, in any sort of definitive manner, if those claiming responsibility actually had anything to do with it or not.
So here’s the quick rundown. Over the holiday this past week, when many people had been opening their gifts and spending time with each other, during one of the busiest times of the year, Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live online services were hit with a DDOS “attack” (attack in quotes because it’s more of a button press; well, multiple millions of automated electronic refresh button presses, but the word ‘attack’ is a bit too strong. I feel ‘inconvenience’ is a better description).
Some quick notes to remember about DDOS attacks. DDOS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. What that means is that the whole point of the program is to deny a system from functioning properly. There isn’t any sort of data leaks, stolen passwords and information, or anything of that nature. You just simply can’t access what is being “attacked”. For a company, it’s kind of a big issue since it creates a bad PR moment in front of your customers. For customers it’s an issue because you can’t access a service that you are (usually) paying a company to use. What customers don’t generally understand is that there is some third party agent doing these on purpose to make the targeted company look bad. The customer just sees the service that is unavailable and then blames the company for their bad experience.
Both online gaming and entertainment networks have been a little sluggish to come back online since being knocked off line on December 24th, 2014. But both Microsoft and Sony are reacting to the situation with a little more agility than the companies involved in the previous attack. Blizzard’s Battle.net service was down for nearly two weeks after being slammed with its own round of DDOS woes. Most of Xbox Live services are already back up and running, some with a limited capacity, as Microsoft continues to work on the ongoing issues.
For more information about Xbox Live on which services are experiencing issues and which are up and running, Microsoft has a status page ready to go. You can even set a system up to have them send you an automated email when a particular service you are waiting for comes around to the “Up and Running” status.
For PlayStation, a simple “yes/no” page is available to check network status. There are several conflicting reports about the PlayStation Network being both online and offline and it seems who can access the network and those who can’t are intermittent and varies uniquely user to user.
All and all, the outages affected quite a few players trying to play online with the shiny stream-lined plastic that they had unwrapped underneath their decorative pine tree. As online capabilities of consoles increase more and more, the importance of having a beefy online support network also goes up. However, both players and companies should keep in mind that there are always games available that don’t require internet access to play, which means that they are immune to these kinds of outages.
The good news is that DDOS attacks are temporary and relatively short lived. The service will be down for a few days (a week or two at most) and then back to trucking right along as usual. So if you can’t connect, just give it a little bit of time and you’ll be back online soon enough.
If you were one of the players affected, feel free to add your comments about the outages below.